Logitech Rally: A New 4K PTZ Webcam

It was almost 5 years ago that I first posed the question, “Where are the USB 3.0 webcams.” They seem to have finally arrived. Logitech’s Brio is now over a year old. Their MeetUp product, not exactly a traditional webcam, is well suited to smaller meeting rooms, aka “huddle rooms.”

Vaddio and PTZ Optics each have several models available, although they remain focused on 1080p models. A USB 3.0 webcam can deliver uncompressed 1080p30 to a host application, which means that the application doesn’t need to specifically configure the camera for MJPEG or H264 modes.

Logitech Rally CameraEarlier this year, Logitech teased the availability of a new webcam. This new model, known as Rally, rides atop their webcam lineup, a 4K PTZ camera for video conferencing applications.

As to the basics, Rally connects to a host via USB 3. The connection on the camera itself is USB 3 type C, with a 2.2m C-to-A type cable provided. USB is the sole interface, which sets Rally apart from some of its competition, which may also provide SDI or Ethernet interfaces.

The camera supports UVC 1.5, able to deliver uncompressed, MJPEG or H264 encoded streams. It can deliver 1080p, 720p at 30 fps and 60 fps.

A 15x lens with a 90 degree field-of-view fronts a 13 megapixel sensor delivering up to a 4k30 stream.

The PTZ mechanism provided +/- 90 degrees of movement left-right. Tilt range is from +50 to -90 degrees. When turned off the camera swings down to the –90 degree position effectively providing a privacy shutter.

When mounted upside down the camera automatically senses this, inverting the output image. This makes ceiling mounting a especially simple.

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Deal Alert: Amazon offering El Gato Camlink for just $89

Hey-ho there neighbor! You might recall some time back I reviewed the little El Gato Camlink, an inexpensive device to allow video capture from HDMI sources to a computer with a USB 3.0 port. Originally offered for $129, Camlink was notable for being about the cheapest way to get that done. Today Amazon’s Gold Box deals include the Camlink for just $89.99.

As I mentioned before, Camlink works well enough, within certain constraints:

  • It can’t scale the video size. If you feed it 1080p the host software on the computer will see only 1080p.
  • It doesn’t have an onboard compression engine. The software that you’re using must be able to handle YUY2 uncompressed video. Not a problem in most cases.
  • It requires a USB 3.0 port. Uncompressed video required big bandwidth, so in most cases the Camlink needs a USB 3.0 port. You might be able to get away with USB 2.0 if your source is SD or 720p30.

At the time it was launched CamLink did not deal with interlaced video. That means that SD or 1080i sources were a problem. I’m told that the company has since solved that problem with a firmware update. I installed the new software, but have not yet scrounged an interlaced source to test that claim.

Most recently, I’ve used it to capture the output of an older GoPro Hero2. It worked flawlessly in that role.

Webcams Where None Should be

It’s as if laptop makers have started playing a little game of hide-the-webcam. In their zeal to offer borderless displays the built-in webcam gets relocated to the most unfortunate places, often with terrible consequences.

Dell XPS

This trend started in 2015 with Dell’s XPS. While the InfinityEdge display was lovely, it forced them to move the webcam from the usual location in the top edge of the display. In their wisdom, Dell put it in the “chin” under the display, and even under the logo. It’s literally right above the keyboard.

xps13_c_3

This location makes for some odd viewing angles. It’s been referred to as the “Nosecam,” which seems appropriate. Others have more specific observations here, here and here.

Tom’s Guide even suggests you use a trick to rotate the webcam video and place the laptop on its side when making video calls.

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Splyce: Intel NUC as a Host for vMix

Now that my video production activities are all desktop-based, my habit of handling video crosses paths with my long-standing affection for small form factor computers. For the past year I’ve used a fanless Airtop-PC from CompuLab as my primary desktop workstation. It has shown itself to be a very capable host for vMix, which is my very favorite live video production tool.

In considering the purchase of the Airtop I also looked long and hard at Intel’s NUC line-up. There’s a lot to like about the NUCs. In particular, the Skull Canyon NUC, with it’s i7-6770HQ CPU, presented an attractive price/performance combination. Others in the vMix user community have noted that it runs vMix handily, despite the lack of an nVidia GPU.

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What’s in a Name: Monitors – Part 1

Language is a funny thing. Sometimes there are subtleties that have consequences, yet get overlooked. The impact of language can be both subtle, and profound at the same time. As ever, context matters. As an example, I’d like to consider the idea of monitoring and monitors.

This is going to drift from the simple to the not-so-simple, exploring the term across contexts. I’ll start with what I find to be the most straightforward aspect. The visual.

Monitors on my desk

My desktop computer has a pair of 23” LCD monitors made by HP. They’re not fancy. They were a good deal and have lasted me a long while. There’d be no debate or misunderstanding in using the term “monitors” when referencing these displays. The use of term in this context is commonplace and easily understood.

monitors

Incidentally, my twin monitors are quite vintage. I’m seriously considering a new LG 43UD79-B as an upgrade to 4K. Continue reading “What’s in a Name: Monitors – Part 1”

El Gato Cam Link: HDMI Capture on-the-cheap

Earlier this year I replaced by aged desktop computer.  The rather bulky, traditional HP tower was replaced by a fantastic little Airptop-PC. The Airtop is a fanless wonder. It’s powerful, has multiple (six!) monitor outputs, a massive array of ports, and draws a tiny amount of power.

While the Airtop-PC is a silent thing of beauty, what it lacks is the extra PCIe slot necessary to install my Aver Media C127 HDMI capture card. This has left me considering USB-connected HDMI capture devices.

An early experience with the Black Magic Design Ultra Studio has left me with an aversion to their lower-end products. I hear good things about the Magewell USB 3.0 capture dongles. There’s no doubt they’re very capable, but at around $300, also quite costly. Continue reading “El Gato Cam Link: HDMI Capture on-the-cheap”